USA military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

Capt. Andrew

All US F-35s grounded worldwide

"During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander", said a Marine Corps statement confirming the strike.

USA airmen walk next to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, as it is moved, on the eve of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2017.

According to the Marine Corps Times, "investigators. suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter's fuel tubes". If good tubes are already installed, then those planes would be returned to operational status.

The F-35 stealth jet has been called the most expensive weapons system in history, and its development was beset by multiple delays before it was deemed combat ready.

The Pentagon on Thursday said its fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp.

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The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.

A US official says only half the current fleet of aircraft have the fuel tube, but inspections will be carried out on the entire USA fleet.

At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC, both British and American pilots are learning how to fly the F-35B.

The South Carolina crash came only one day after the USA military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps fighters hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

The announcement of the grounding comes after a United States Marine Corps F-35B from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords", crashed in SC near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on September 28. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent.

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"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35".

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", the Pentagon statement added. Mission capable rates now hover between 49 and 71 percent, according to Defense News, which first reported the order.

Now the US military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems.

"The US services and global partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft", said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program. Gen. Amikam Norkin, wants to conduct additional tests on Israel's F-35s.

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